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Sling TV is at its lowest number of subscribers in 5 years

We’ve written about how streaming video isn’t a zero-sum game, despite all the headlines declaring that the Streaming Wars are in full swing. But that’s not to say that churn — the act of a subscriber bailing — isn’t very real. It is, and it’s one of the main metrics streaming companies worry about.

This brings us to Sling TV. Parent company Dish just announced its first-quarter 2023 earnings and with it, new subscriber numbers for Sling TV. That gives us five full years of data — 21 total quarters. And that data is interesting for a couple of reasons.

Sling TV app icon on Apple TV.

First is that Sling TV ended the quarter with its lowest number of subscribers in five years, at 2.1 million at the end of March 2023. That’s the least number of subs going back as we’ve been able to easily track it, which conveniently is right at five years.

But the other interesting thing is that Sling’s numbers really haven’t deviated all that much in the past five years. While competitors like YouTube TV and Hulu With Live TV have continued to climb — the former reported more than 5 million subs in June 2022, and the latter closed 2022 with 4.5 million — Sling has seemed to be content basically staying at the same level. Over the 21 quarters for which we have data, Sling TV has averaged about 2.4 million subscribers. The most recent quarter is the lowest, and Sling TV peaked at 2.686 million subs in September 2019.

Chart showing Sling TV subscribers by quarter from 2018 to 2023.

It’s worth noting, at least from a quarter-to-quarter perspective, that Dish says a ransomware attack that took down much of its public-facing online presence — though not its streaming service — apparently wasn’t to blame for the loss of a couple hundred thousand subscribers the first three months of the year. “The outages did not materially affect [churn of] Sling TV subscribers,” the company said in its Q1 earnings call.

It’s probably wrong to say that Sling TV has been ignored for the past five years. It’s definitely had its share of marketing, including the double-entendre “Slingers” campaign with real-life married couple Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, to the more recent “Meet the Parents” spots. And we also don’t have any insight into the popularity of Sling’s new FAST service, which offers up free content in exchange for you watching some advertising.

And Sling TV remains one of the more affordable live TV streaming services, at least out of the gate, starting at $40 a month for either the Sling Orange or Sling Blue plans or $55 if you want both. But that’ll get you fewer channels than you’ll get nearly all of its competitors, and building out your Sling packages with add-ons will quickly increase the monthly price. Sling TV also lacks local channels, which likely keeps some subscribers away.

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